The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on Monday announced a $16.8 million grant to Research Triangle Park, N.C.-based AlphaVax for the development of the company's experimental HIV vaccine, The [Raleigh] News and Observer reports. The AlphaVax vaccine uses a genetically engineered, nonreplicating alphavirus, the virus commonly carried by mosquitoes that can cause encephalitis. The alphavirus has been disabled so it is noninfectious. Once inside the body, the HIV genes prime the immune system to recognize and attack invading HIV. Animal tests showed the vaccine induced strong antibody and cellular immune responses to the virus. Company officials say the federal grant will be used to craft a vaccine that carries even more HIV genes into the body, theoretically inducing an even stronger immune system response. AlphaVax has already received part of an $81 million grant issued by NIAID in September to four biotechnology companies working on HIV vaccines and related research.